It’s not a good sign when the beating heart of a film is a character reading aloud from a book, but in House of Boys, a 2009 AIDS drama from Luxembourg, the book featured is Dance on My Grave, a 1982 gay teen novel that reads, “The only important thing is that we escape our history.”
Set in 1980s Amsterdam, House of Boys seeks to capture our community’s most turbulent decade: rampant and cheerful sex and drug use mixed with political activism and the terror of a new epidemic. It’s clear that Boys is a labour of love from first-time writer/director Jean-Claude Schlim, formerly a production manager on films like Highlander: Endgame.
After a beautifully shot opening sequence, we meet handsome blond high-schooler Frank as he’s getting fucked in the toilets.
We follow him as he’s bullied in the locker room, daydreams a dance number, gets caught masturbating by his mom and argues with his dad about his new earring. Busy day!
There’s a generous amount of eye candy in the sexy dance numbers – the band Dangerous Muse gets a welcome cameo – though the film is oddly prudish in its sex and drug scenes. Some of the history is handled clumsily, which, frankly, is embarrassing, but for younger viewers, House of Boys might work as a tidy summary of what previous generations survived.